St. Anthony's wins in CHSHL semis
St. Anthony’s coach Jeff Stelmok knows the danger of a hot goaltender in playoff hockey and that’s just what the top-seeded Friars were facing Monday night in the opening game of a best-of-three CHSHL Class A semifinal series against No. 4 Fordham Prep.
Rams goaltender William Wrotniak stopped all nine shots he faced in the first period, including a few stunning glove saves.
“It was frustrating in the beginning,” St. Anthony’s forward Brent D’Iorio said. “Their goalie was making a lot of big saves, but once we got that first one, we got the puck toward the net and they all started coming.”
D’Iorio scored that first goal and the Friars went on to cruise to a 5-0 victory at World Ice Arena in Flushing. The three-time defending champions can book its ticket into the finals with a win in Game 2 Saturday night at the Ice Hutch in Mount Vernon.
“The first win is always the most important,” Alec Manfre said. “We just have to keep on playing how we’re playing and we’ll see how we do toward the road to states.”
While Wrotniak was the story in the opening 15 minutes, but St. Anthony’s goalie Danny Peterson stopped all 22 shots he faced to pick up the playoff shutout.
“It’s good to get the win, that’s the main thing,” Peterson said. “A shutout is just a bonus after that, but I’m glad my team played great defense and let me get the shutout today.”
Because St. Anthony’s (15-2-1) is known as a high-flying offensive juggernaut, Peterson and the Friars defense at times goes overlooked. But no team in the CHSHL has conceded fewer goals than St. Anthony’s, a trend that continued in the postseason.
“Danny’s been great for us all year, he’s come a long way,” Stelmok said. “He’s been our mainstay, the guy who won the state championship for us last year so we have the greatest faith in him. He’s going to be our guy and we’re going to ride him.”
The same is true of Wrotniak, who helped lead Fordham Prep (7-10-1) to its first playoff appearance in three years. But once D’Iorio scored on a wrist shot from the right circle, Michael Martino followed with a slap shot from the point to give the Friars a 2-0 lead 47 seconds later.
“It was definitely a sigh of relief when we got the first one and then we started getting the puck toward the net,” D’Iorio said.
While Wrotniak (24 saves) was stellar, he didn’t get much support offensively.
“They were picking everything in the air, nothing was going through,” Fordham Prep coach Willie Beck said. “I think the few opportunities when we did get it into their zone, we didn’t get the right bounce or the right timing.”
Manfre put the Friars in front 3-0 with 4:01 left in the second, racing down the ice from his own blue line, beating a Rams defenseman to the puck and poking it past Wrotniak.
“I saw the gap and I just beat him in a footrace,” Manfre said.
Fordham Prep’s best opportunity came when Chris Corbett was given a double minor for boarding with 12.6 seconds left in the second period.
However, Bryan Whelan scored a shorthanded goal 23 seconds into the third period to essentially ice the win for St. Anthony’s, which received an insurance goal from Baylee Modugno on a breakaway with 2:52 remaining.
“That was a big momentum killer for us,” Beck said. “We were looking to convert on that. It just wasn’t our night.”
As dominant as St. Anthony’s was, Stelmok knows the semifinal series isn’t over yet.
“You don’t want it to go three [games]. It doesn’t matter who you are or who you’re playing. Game 3 is Game 3 and its loser go home,” Stelmok said. “We want to try and get it done the next game. We’re going to play it like it’s a Game 3.”